HIYA, Tom here! Let’s do this…
Last time we visited Mysore was back in January 2014. We had a great time, but it was not Mysore itself that made us return this year. It was our beautiful hosts and friends, Stephen and Manjula.
I found our previous trip to Mysore to be a bit of a mixed bag of awesome and not awesome. Amy would say that the only reason I feel like that was because got ‘taken for a ride’ by a local, who was exercising a very popular scam on us. She was right (as usual) and looking back now, I remember how much I did love it. I was also probably a little scared at the time. For a mummy’s boy (yes, I was 29 at the time) from a small town in the south west of England, in India for the first time, I found it all a little overwhelming, for sure!
What was the scam I hear you say?
Well, we were walking around Mysore and came across a local who greeted us on a street corner with this seemingly harmless opener of…
“Hello, are you new here? I am a student from Sri Lanka. We can take a walk together if you want. I’ve been here for a few days and I’m just on my way to a book shop for my studies. If you want to come along I can show you some stuff on the way. Oh, and also, the great Ravi Shankar’s daughter is to play in Mysore tonight. If you want, I can show you when and where”.
Feeling smug about our knowledge of Norah Jones’ family tree, we fell for it, only to find out about an hour later that we were being walked through his friend’s shop to buy some incense. I found myself following my new best friend, Joseph into this small shop, but realised Amy had stopped in the doorway. She wasn’t following. It clicked. ‘Ah, we’ve been scammed’. My new best friend had lied to us so he could bring some tourists all the way to his mate’s shop in the hope they’d buy something, so he could get some commission. “No way! far out! But he’s my friend! He wouldn’t lie to me…”
You’re probably thinking no big deal, but right there and then I felt so betrayed. Such an extravagant ploy to take us all that way to spend so little money. It was also the first scam I had experienced in India and those who know me will understand that my sensitive side was a little bruised to say the least.
Anyway…To the present!
To get to Mysore from Varkala, we had taken the most uncomfortable sleeper bus and arrived all sleepy, grumpy and totally disorientated, on the side of a road somewhere in Mysore. Oh and it was so hot! We pulled our bags from the luggage bay and stood a little dazed. A few rickshaw drivers approached us and I was happy to accept one of their fares once I’d gotten an average. Hold on. Shit! Where’s Amy’s MRI scan? The really big, A2 photos of the inside of her knee we’d put onto the bus 10 hours ago? A rickshaw driver clocked our panicked expressions and piled us into the back of his rickshaw. Our bags took up the back seat while amy perched on top, (no room for me) I was left half standing, with my arse hanging out of the side, while our driver sped off (seriously, I didn’t think those vehicles went that fast) across the town, chasing the bus we had just gotten off of. It was straight out of a film, dodging cattle, traffic and street vendors. I swear he caught some air from the speed bumps. He managed to circumvent the bus’ route and we screeched to a halt. After flagging down the bus, the driver retrieved Amy’s sacred scans. Needless to say, he took us to our homestay and received a very healthy tip.
Manjula’s Mysore, also known as Mysore Bed and Breakfast, is a true home away from home. We were so happy to be back. It certainly felt a little dreamy as we pulled up to see lovely Manjula waiting for us! This Bed and Breakfast is as Magical as our friend Debra’s.
We didn’t really return just to see Mysore, we came back to visit the old friends we had made 2 years before. The place is run by Stephen and Manjula. Stephen is an amazingly charismatic, friendly and kind Yorkshireman, who has been living in india for maybe 8 years and Manjula (she’s the real boss), well, you’ve never met someone quite like Manjula. Charming and warm, Manjula can out-wit anybody and has a wicked sense of humour.
The pair of them really are a joy to be around. Our time covered 6 days in total. We were only supposed to stay for 3. When you arrive in somewhere like Mysore, it’s usually the custom to jump in a rickshaw and go exploring the sights. We’d already done this on our previous visit, so decided to keep things local for our first day and after we’d made use of the leisurely roof terrace, we took a walk. Google maps in hand (my best friend for exploring, apart from Amy), we headed left towards an open green area. There was no access from this side of the road, but, oh wait a minute…
Is that Superman? A wax museum, huh? Well, why not, we’ve got nothing else to do. As it turned out, the museum was a self-funded (by the wax artist) sanctuary, dedicated to wax people playing different instruments from around the world.
Can’t believe this place isn’t in the lonely planet? Come on!
Speechless? We know. Us too. If you ever make it to Mysore, you know where to go huh! Here are some snaps from the walk back to the house. Local life here on the streets seemed really nice. Lot’s of friendly people.
I love travelling. It’s rad! We woke up and didn’t really have much on the agenda. Stephen suggested we use one of his trusted rickshaw drivers to take us out on a day tour to see a temple and to visit a village. It sounded good, so off we went. Vasanth was our driver for the day. We’d met him during our previous stay. He’s a great guy to hang out with for the day, and very tolerant of my constant requests to stop for a photo opportunity, or to pull a u-turn because I’ve changed my mind and I really shoulda got that photo (thanks for that bit of advice Debra). He was also more than happy to attach my GoPro to his rickshaw. Thanks Vasanth!
First stop was Chennakesava Temple, Somanathapura. This is our third time in India, so we’ve done a fair few temples. This one, however, seemed a little different. It reminded me of images I had seen of temples in Cambodia. The architecture was incredible and the building was made up of thousands of intricate carvings. Take a look…
We then headed for a bite to eat at a cool little local cafe, with highly questionable hygiene, before we arrived at a tiny village called Channahal (not sure of the spelling). Again, it was hot, hot and dry. kinda like what I imagine it would feel like if I was small and I joined a loaf of bread baking in an oven.
The walk from end to end could have taken us 5 minutes if we pushed through, but I think it may have taken us an hour. The distractions in India are endless. Smells, colours, noises, people, animals, artwork, food. It’s often a full-on assault on all of your senses. Amy and I have noticed that sometimes, one of us goes into a trance-like state. One of us would ask the other something and wouldn’t get a response. There often isn’t enough headspace to experience India and hold a conversation at the same time. Conversations are better saved for dinner time. No. Scrap that. That’s not a good place for a chat either. Come to think of it, I don’t think we’ve spoken since Sri Lanka.
This tiny village was indescribable. I’ve heard a lot about virtual reality and I myself was getting excited about it while I was working in the video industry in London, but being in a place like this is something technology will never get close to letting you experience. Like I said, too much to take in. This village was like stepping back in time. The architecture here was very different from anywhere else we’d been. Apparently the style of architecture is known as ‘Thotimane’. People’s living conditions were basic but beautiful. The locals were reserved, but curious, friendly, but unlike some of the people in other rural places we had visited, not too intense when faced with a foreigner. After a short while we came across a group of girls of all ages, playing a game of Carrom on their front porch. I invited myself into the shade. The language barrier was tough, but we were all boiling and I was welcomed in with smiles.
I imagined I worked for National Geographic and took my chances a little further, inviting myself into their home as I had spotted my favourite photo opportunity to date at the back of the house.
Inside the house was magic. The colours made me happy and the layout was minimal yet beautiful. There was an ‘open to the elements’ area in the middle of the house, which I believe was used as a cleaning area. The hosts seemed friendly and gracious and let me take their photo.
Here’s some more snaps
and some more whilst we headed home
So, this kind of feels like a diary entry. I’m not used to blogging yet, so I feel like I needed to write this paragraph to sign off and let you know we then went and had dinner and then went to bed.
Lastly, this is my first bloglet. Hi5! For the record, I think Amy’s a better writer than me. It’s not me being lazy (much). I’m just much more content with a camera than a pen. Thing is, she’s pretty badass with a camera so I need to up my pen game. Peace out.
Note: Edited by Amy. lol